Gannett: Landrieu, Vitter call for Obama to OK pipeline
Malia Rulon Herman and Deborah Barfield Berry
WASHINGTON — Louisiana's Mary Landrieu and David Vitter joined seven other Democratic and Republican senators Wednesday in calling for President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project now that Nebraska has approved an alternate route.
"It's time for the president to look anew at this project and approve it for the benefit of the country," said Landrieu, a Democrat.
"Not only will it create thousands of jobs and inject billions of dollar into our economy, it will strengthen our energy security by allowing us to import more oil from our trusted friend and ally Canada, instead of from Venezuela or nations in the Middle East."
Landrieu and Vitter joined senators from Nebraska, North Dakota, Texas, Alaska, West Virginia, Arkansas and Montana at a press conference Wednesday.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman notified the president on Tuesday he will let the controversial pipeline traverse his state, a crucial step toward reviving the project one year after it was delayed by the Obama administration.
The Republican governor wrote in a letter to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that he has approved a revised route for the Canada-to-Texas pipeline, which his office said would avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region but would cut through the High Plains Aquifer.
The project must be approved by the State Department to move forward. Heineman's move puts the onus back on the Obama administration to decide the fate of the 1,700-mile pipeline that has pitted GOP lawmakers against environmentalists.
In a letter to Obama sent Wednesday, Vitter and Landrieu and 51 other senators said the project should be approved now that it will avoid the Sand Hills area, which the administration had cited as a concern in initially rejecting plans for the pipeline.
"We ask you not to move the goalposts as opponents of this project have pressed you to do. We urge you to choose jobs, economic development and American energy security," the senators wrote.
Vitter, the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, has long supported the pipeline.
"Many Americans are still hurting for jobs and one partial solutionis staring us all in the face - the Keystone XL pipeline," Vitter said in a statement. "I applaud Gov. Heineman's support of the Keystone re-route, which clearly eliminates any excuse from the Obama Administration. "
In January last year, Obama blocked quick approval for the Keystone XL pipeline, triggering outrage from Republicans and objections from the business community.
TransCanada, the pipeline's developer, has since broken the project into two parts.
The company received federal approval last year to begin construction of the 485-mile, $2.3 billion southern leg of the project from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast.
The segment the senators want Obama to approve is the 1,179-mile, $5.3 billion northern leg from Alberta to Steele City, Neb.